Everyone has biases, from frontline employees to c-suite executives. The common causes of bias can typically be traced back to these five things:
- Our personal experiences and upbringing
- The experiences of others, like our parents and friends
- The cultures we live in and what is considered normal
- The information we process (media)
- Our education systems and what they value
Just about any of our life experiences can contribute to forming bias simply because we are hard-wired to be bias machines. Our brains are constantly bringing together all of our learned and innate experiences, stereotyping them, and trying to help us make good decisions—but watch out! Some of our biases, if not understood and addressed, can actually lead us to make worse decisions, not better ones.
The next time you like or dislike something, dig a little deeper and see if you can’t determine the source of this judgment. Can you trace it back to an experience in your life or an experience of a family member or friend? Does it have roots in your culture or society? Is it the result of media coverage you have consumed, or your education?
Don’t live on autopilot, don’t let past experiences, culture, or the media cause you to jump to conclusions with other people. Being more aware of biases will enable you to make conscious decisions about whether or not to act on them. As a leader, it is up to you to model the behavior you want to see in those you lead. By examining your own biases and by confronting them, you are helping to create a culture safe for diversity, inclusion, and ultimately engagement.